If the daily news about the border crisis has you feeling helpless, a local group of writers has a poetic antidote.
The Writers for Migrant Justice event is a nationwide day of protest reading and fundraising, with 45 cities (and counting) participating across the country. Organized in response to the work being done by Immigrant Families Together to support detained migrants, the movement donates 100% of proceeds directly to families in crisis at the border. Salt Lake City participated with a gathering of protest readings on Sept. 5, 2019 at The Arts Hub.
Immigrant Families Together, founded in 2018, is a fully volunteer run non-profit that works to reunite families at the border by paying their bonds. They began by helping one family reunify, and through quick mobilization have expanded their efforts and mission to reach as many families in crisis as possible. In addition to their legal advocacy, they also support refugees by providing basic needs such as food, clothing and diapers. The organization also provides ongoing support in managing complex trauma as families navigate life after detention. Remarkably, Immigrant Families Together focuses their efforts on one family at a time, providing dignified, wraparound care. As their website states, their focus is, “To empty these facilities, reunite these parents with their children, and help repair the enormous trauma our country has perpetrated against these families who came here seeking a safer, better life.”
“The border crisis is not abstract. Our friends and loved ones are suffering and we wanted to do something about it.”
Local co-organizer and creative writer Matty Lane Glasgow came across the event on social media and was inspired to rally a group of Salt Lake authors to host a chapter. “Regardless of where you live, whether it’s Salt Lake or anywhere else, there are stories of immigration around us every day. Many of our friends, family and lovers are part of this community,” says Glasgow.
Paula Mendoza, fellow organizer, says, “The border crisis is not abstract. Our friends and loved ones are suffering and we wanted to do something about it.”
The local Writers for Migrant Justice event aimed to raise a minimum of $500 to directly support the efforts of Immigrant Families Together. In addition to protest readings, the evening featured food, auction items and poetry busking. “I think an event is the best place to provide a valve and a resource to channel a desire to help,” says Mendoza. “The goal of Writers for Migrant Justice is to raise funds for immigrant families together, it’s to foster and build community, and its also to offer a platform for existing local organizations doing great work.”
The lineup for Writers for Migrant Justice was thoughtfully curated and featured a range of both academic and community-based writers and activists, including Paisley Rekdal, Utah’s Poet Laureate. Rekdal was involved in the organization of the event and read an original work alongside several of her students and colleagues.
Traditional poetry readings have a reputation of being formal and scholarly, but this gathering in protest was anything but. The intention set for the space was for the community to engage in an urgently needed conversation with an energetic, impassioned and responsive tone. Mendoza described the reading as, “Informative, educational, somber, mournful, reflective, raucous, joyous, celebratory.”
“The goal of Writers for Migrant Justice is to raise funds for immigrant families together, it’s to foster and build community, and its also to offer a platform for existing local organizations doing great work.”
The dynamic evening of activism was held on Thurs. September 5 at the The Arts Hub from 7 p.m.–9 p.m. Though the primary goal of the event was to fundraise, there was also an emphasis on highlighting local organizations invested in supporting migrant communities.
The organizers of Writers for Migrant Justice hope that through spoken word and other forms of impactful creative expression, attendees will have left feeling empowered to continue supporting the crucial work of migrant justice.
Individually, it can feel impossible to make a difference, but this event aimed to harbor connection and a shared sense of commitment to focusing on hopeful solutions. Through their transparent fundraising and clear mission, Writers for Migrant Justice created space for communities across the nation to unite under a clear call for action.
If you were unable to attend this coordinated literary event but want to support Writers for Migrant Justice, please consider donating directly to the organization’s Go Fund Me. All funds raised nationwide will go directly to Immigrant Families Together, with the explicit goal of reaching families detained at the border.